How To Avoid A Community Association Winter Nightmare
How prepared is your condo, townhome or HOA association? According to some weather pundits, Old Man Winter is supposed to pack a mean punch this time around and make up for the super mild winters we have had recently especially in the Chicagland area.
So it is extremely important to ensure that YOUR community association is prepared for the worst. Based on historical snow fall over the last 100 years in the Chicagoland area, there is typically 6 snow falls over 2″ and about 25 to 30 total snow fall incidents per winter season. This means that the vast majority of incidents per winter season are historically under 2″. This information is by no means an indication of the future especially in today’s extreme weather patterns.
In any event, let me share some tips on what to consider when shopping for a snow removal company this winter.
The first step is understanding how snow removal services are provided. Here are the most common contract scenarios:
- “All Inclusive” up to a certain amount of snowfall (typically 40″ in Chicago). This means there is one fixed fee usually payable over 3 to 4 months. Once the 40″ threshold is met, the company will then provide services on a time and material basis (T&M). Some companies even offer this approach over a 3 year period. The total number of inches included is the key in this scenario.
- “All Inclusive” up to a certain amount of incidents. So one fixed fee up to a certain number of snow falls (typically around 10). This is to the advantage of the association in the event there are some very heavy snowfalls. Once the number of incidents are used up, the company will provide services on a T&M basis
- “All Inclusive” in an unlimited number of snow fall incidents. I haven’t seen it but if you are offered it, TAKE IT. (with caution)
- “Per Incident Price (ala carte)” In this scenario, there is a fixed cost per incident that includes the labor and may also include the salt. Usually the per incident only includes up to a certain number of inches. If the number of inches exceeds the threshold, there is an extra cost per the contract terms. It is obviously very hard to budget with this scenario
(Image: Andrew A. Nelles via ZUMA Press)
SNOW REMOVAL TRIGGERS
- Zero Tolerance. The company will come out whether it is a freezing rain, a 1″ snow fall or a blizzard.
- 1″ or greater. The company will come out once accumulation has exceeded 1″.
- 2″ or greater. The company will come out once an accumulation has exceeded 2″.
TYPES OF SALT
- Rock salt. This is most commonly used for sidewalks and roadways. It is the cheapest but does usually cause the most harm to concrete. This is also the best for “traction” because the rock salt does not melt very easily. Thus it is used in parking lots and driveways. It is effective in temperatures down to 15°F (-9°C).
- Calcium Chloride. This is about 3x to 4x more expensive than a bag of rock salt but is much less harmfull for concrete and pets. This is usually used for sidewalks and porches as it has a strong ability to melt ice. Effective to -20°F (-29°C)
- Magnesium Chloride. This is about 2x the cost of Rock salt and is less harmful than Rock Salt. It doesn’t have the melting power of Calcium Chloride but is less expensive. Effective to -15°F (-26°C)
(Photo Credit: Robert F. Bukaty/AP)
What are you supposed to look for in a snow removal company in order to make a good hiring decision?
- How many crews does the company have? Is it a 1 man shop?
- How many routes does the company have? A route is a set of buildings/addresses that are assigned to one crew. If the route has too many stops, the snow won’t get removed in a reasonable timeframe for the clients at the end of the route.
- How many accounts does the company have?
- How many accounts would be on your route? If you accept this company’s quote, where would your association be on the route? Beginning, middle or end?
- Supervision. Is there a supervisor for each crew?
- Subcontractors. Does the company hire subcontractors or are all the workers employees?
- Equipment. This will depend on the size of your association. Will the company leave equipment on site? If so, what equipment will they leave on site?
- Response time. Is there a guaranteed response time once a snow fall has substantially ceased?
- What is the budget historically for snow removal services?
- What level of performance and service are you looking for?
- If you don’t want ZERO TOLERANCE, who is going to salt the property in the event there is a freezing rain?
- Are you prepared for an overage this winter for snow removal services?
- Does your budget include a contingency account in the event there are contract service overages?
As you can see, there is a fair amount of information to review and consider in order to make a good hiring decision when it comes to snow removal services. The question boils down to whether or not you want to take a risk with your hiring decision this winter. And whether or not you are willing to take a risk and piss off none, some or all of your homeowners.
Salvatore J. Sciacca aka “Condoboss” is one of the nation’s leading experts in the community property management industry and is also recognized for his stress relieving blogs and insight on personal and organizational transformation.
Salvatore has also traveled extensively around the world and has meditated with Buddhist monks in Nepal and met the world’s happiest man, Matthieu Ricard. He’s passions include cooking, traveling, meditating and hiking. He is also the founder and executive director of the Chicagoland Italian American Professionals organization and an amateur chef.
Salvatore can be reached at: 312.455.0107 x102 or at email@example.com.